News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 8th May 2015

Tánaiste says procedure in place to deal with social welfare recipients in debt 

   

Joan Burton defends Government’s decision to legislate for attachment orders

The Department of Social Protection used long-established principles in dealing with social welfare recipients with debts, Tánaiste Joan Burton told the Dáil.

She said the procedure remained “absolutely intact” in the deduction of money for a debt. “It has been subjected to very detailed discussion in this House at different times and actually deals with very small amounts,” Mr Burton added.

The Tánaiste was responding to Opposition criticism of the decision to introduce legislation allowing for attachment orders to the welfare and wages of customers in debt with their utility bills.

She said the Government’s decision was essentially to distinguish between those who could not pay and those who would not pay. It would lay out a clear path for the recovery of civil debt, she added.

Ms Burton said the legislation would remove from people any threat of imprisonment regarding civil debt, which went back to the times of Charles Dickens.

“It is a very fundamental reform to take that threat away,” she added. “I have to say I am very pleased that various organisations have welcomed the legislation.”

Ms Burton sharply criticised TDs who have said they would not pay water charges.

“Our salaries and conditions are pretty good and, yet, there are a lot of people here who are saying they won’t pay,” she said.

“They are not suggesting they can’t pay, but they are saying that somebody on a very handsome salary should get the compliant pensioner to pay.”

Her remarks were made during heated exchanges with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Ms Burton said the Law Reform Commission report on the issue clearly set out “mechanisms and methods” whereby people who were unable to pay would be assisted in dealing with debt issues.

Ms McDonald said she had asked the Tánaiste, over several months, to explain how families bearing the brunt of the Government’s austerity policies were meant to pay the “unjust and unfair” water tax.

Sneaky and cowardly She told Ms Burton the Government’s decision to allow attachment orders was “low, sneaky and a cowardly proposition in the face of mass public opposition to your water tax”.

Ms McDonald said it was all about Irish Water and the public resistance to an unfair imposition on struggling families.

“People see that this is the Government saying to the working poor – many of those struggling are at work, as I presume the Tánaiste knows – that it does not care about their living standards or their day-to-day struggles and, if they do not cough up, it is going to stick its hand in their pockets anyway,” she said.

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher asked where Labour’s “basic decency” had gone to.

“There is huge pressure on families, yet we now have a situation in which people in extreme poverty will be dragged to the courts and attachment orders will be made to their social welfare payments or their basic wages,” he said.

County Sligo village prepares for rare visit by Prince Charles and Camilla

     Mullaghmore historian Joe McGowan hopes Prince Charles may be shown the effects of the Famine when he visits the Co. Sligo harbor village.

On 20 May they will travel to Sligo, where they will visit the final resting place of W.B. Yeats in Drumcliffe.

They will also visit Mullaghmore where his great uncle Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA. Lord Mountbatten, 79, was killed in 1979 when the IRA detonated a bomb on his boat using  remote-control.

Lord Mountbatten’s grandson Nicholas, 14, and a local boat boy Paul Maxwell, 15, were also killed in the blast.

The Prince will also visit the Sligo races.

Joe McGowan is one of the few in the village of Mullaghmore who believes the visit of the prince should be private and not the public affair planned on a date between May 19 and 22.

The historian said he fears that the public visit will once again focus world attention on the death of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the prince’s godfather and great uncle who was killed by an IRA bomb on his boat Shadow V in the harbor in 1979.

  Joe McGowan said, “That could re-focus negativity on Mullaghmore.”

Clarence House, Prince Charles’s official residence in London, has confirmed the visit to both parts of Ireland. Further details have not yet been released but it is generally assumed the prince will be the first member of the royal family to visit where Mountbatten was killed.

“Prince Charles is probably not fully aware of the past history in Mullaghmore. I would hope that during his visit he will be briefed on the numbers of people forced to sail from there on Famine coffin ships,” McGowan said.

If a visit is to be included for the prince to Eithna O’Sullivan’s prize-winning restaurant directly opposite where Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V was berthed he will have an opportunity to learn of the effects of the Famine on Mullaghmore.

There will be a pictorial exhibition of old and new Mullaghmore in the restaurant which will feature nine Famine coffin ships that sailed from Sligo to Canada.

Their passages were “assisted” by Lord Palmerston, who was twice prime minister of England and who built Classiebawn Castle, Lord Mountbatten’s Mullaghmore holiday home. Several people died on the ships on the way to Canada.

McGowan’s reticence about Prince Charles’s public visit is not shared by the majority of the villagers who believe the royal trip will boost Mullaghmore on the tourism map.

Grainne McHugh, who was a young nurse treating the casualties on Shadow V — four died including Mountbatten — in common with most locals, is delighted Charles will have an opportunity for solace at the spot where the man he called Uncle Dickie died.

Mullaghmore Active campaigner Peter McHugh believes Charles’ profile, and that he was so closely aligned to Mountbatten, will be very positive for Mullaghmore.

“We really don’t think it strange that he would want to see the area where his uncle enjoyed a lot of holiday time,” McHugh said.

Six small meals are key to diet success

  

There’s so much advice around when it comes to eating that it can be tricky to know what to follow. Some diet plans encourage three meals a day plus regular snacks, while others state that sticking to just breakfast, lunch and dinner and nothing else is the key. It’s also been suggested that small, regular meals might help with weight-loss, an idea which has been backed by new research.

According to a study conducted by experts at California and New Mexico universities, having more small meals will help you drop the pounds.

To help them come to this conclusion the group looked at two different ways of eating over a fortnight. One set of people were given two meals a day and the others received six, but the total amount of calories for both sets was the same.

Both groups of people ended up losing weight, but those who had more regular meals boasted a healthier body composition. In line with this, they didn’t see as much of their fat-free body mass decrease and their levels of glucose, cholesterol and insulin were better.

People who had two meals a day saw their fat-free body mass cut by 3%, while the others only had a 1.2% reduction.

The study was published in science journal Nutrition Research, with researchers stating the findings point towards smaller meals being the key to staying trim.

Fat-free body mass is your body mass which doesn’t include fat, so it takes in everything else such as organs, bones, skin, ligaments and water content. If you have a high fat-free mass it means you are lean and healthy, which is why it isn’t good if a diet sees it reduced too much.

Don’t start to think you need to completely cut the fat from your frame though, as a certain amount is needed to stay healthy. Men need around 3% to be in peak condition and it’s more for women because they have sex-specific fat, so it comes in at 12%.

Thousands prepare for Darkness Into Light event tonight

   

Over 100,000 people in 80 venues across three continents are preparing to take part in Pieta House’s annual Darkness Into Light 5k walk and run.

Suicide and self-harm charity Pieta House’s annual Darkness Into Light fundraising and awareness event will take place in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Participants will begin walking or running the 5km route at 4.15am on Saturday morning. The charity say the early dawn represents hope and is symbolic of their work, bringing people from darkness back into the light.

Louise McEvoy lost her brother through suicide eight years ago. Adrian was 28 when he took his own life and Louise said it was completely unexpected.

“It devastated us. We couldn’t believe it, that he took his own life and we didn’t know anything about the fact he was in so much trouble.

“But it didn’t tear us apart. We are a very strong family and we stuck together and we decided that fundraising and trying to raise awareness was probably the positive thing to do out of this terrible tragedy,” she said.

Louise is taking part in this year’s Darkness Into Light walk in Skerries, Co Dublin on Saturday.

Emily Diebold from the tourist office in the seaside town said they have been taking in over €1000 every day in registration fees.

“There has actually been a queue out the door. We had no idea that there was going to be so many people registering. We have been getting more t-shirts every day. We have been running out of the sizes and the application forms,” she said.

Founder of Pieta House Joan Freeman explained: “People start the walk at a quarter past four in the morning but as they cross the finish line dawn is breaking which is very symbolic of the work that we do in Pieta House – we bring people from the dark into the light.

“It is often said the darkest hour is before dawn. It is the same when someone is in a suicidal crisis, just before they come to Pieta House it is their darkest time,” he said.

The walk will be timed to coincide with several others taking place elsewhere in the country and abroad, including Australia, Canada, England, Scotland and the USA.

This Bear walking upright like a person on his hind legs will mesmerize & terrify us

    

Animals dressed as humans are usually unsettling sights (save a few chihuahua holiday sweaters here and there, and of course cat bow ties). But animals ACTING as humans? Pure comedy. And in a life-affirming nod from the TGIF gods,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GBpeFJtka8  Here is a video evidence of a bear walking like a person. Click on the link to see video.

At the Laos Wildlife Center, an especially tiny and precious Asiatic black bear rose up on both hind legs to take a stroll of his enclosed perimeter. I love its casual approach as if it were to ask in passing, “Hey Norman, what happened to the hazelnut coffee blend? I loved that stuff. Now it’s vanilla, which is fine—I guess. Let’s go to Panera for lunch, yeah?” Very chill ‘tude, bear friend. Very chill, indeed.

Except not really—apparently this specific bear was a past resident of a very cruel bear bile farm. FYI, some farms keep bears—mostly Asiatic black bears and sunbears—in cramped cages to extract their bile, which is sold at an exorbitant price to cure various ailments. It’s very cruel and scary and sometimes permanently affects the bears’ bodies in a way like the one caught on camera. Even though there’s a sad history as to why this bear walks in such a fashion, it’s still mesmerizing to see in action. Seriously:

At least he is safe now on the reservation and getting the attention he needs. The veterinarian Eliza Jinata who posted the video further explains:

Before his current place was turned into a rescue center, it functioned as a zoo where visitors could feed him and other bears by throwing food from outside the fence. With his smaller and malnourished body, it is easier for him to stand on his hind leg because his spine can support his light body weight. Standing up and waiting for food slowly became a habit which he does on a daily basis now.

Ugh, it’s the worst when something cute is actually the result of something terrible. See the whole video below:

Clap your eyes on the first ‘images’ of thunder

  

The first images of thunder, created by visualizing the sound waves created by artificially triggered lightning, have been taken by an international team of researchers. The novel experimental approach provides an entirely new way of investigating lightning, which may help to answer outstanding questions about the physics that underlies this intense natural phenomenon.

Although bolts of lightning strike the Earth more than four million times each day, much of the specific physics behind this process remains a mystery. “While we understand the general mechanics of thunder generation, it’s not particularly clear which physical processes of the lightning discharge contribute to the thunder we hear,” says group leader Maher Dayeh, of the Southwest Research Institute in the US, who developed the new method together with colleagues in Australia and the US. Dayeh explains that some outstanding questions include how lightning is initiated, what controls its movement through the atmosphere, and how it strikes objects near the ground.

Forked leaders

Lightning strikes begin with the build-up of electrostatic charges in storm clouds – these form channels of negatively charged, ionized air, or “leaders”, which fork downwards. When they reach the ground, these leaders create a bridge of low resistance, through which discharge can occur – with positive charge racing up the channel in a series of nearly instantaneous return strokes. “When lightning does strike something, very large currents flow, heating up the channel to about 27,760 °C. The hot channel rapidly expands, making the thunder that we hear and can measure,” explains Joseph Dwyer, of the University of New Hampshire, who is part of the team. He adds that because “the thunder is created close to the time that all this is happening, it provides a window into what’s going on when lightning strikes”.

As lightning’s unpredictable nature makes it difficult to study in the field, the researchers conducted their experiments on artificially triggered strikes instead. To generate lightning, the team launched small rockets into storm clouds as they passed overhead. The rockets had long, trailing copper wires attached – these provided a conductive channel through which lightning would predictably strike – onto which the team could focus their instruments.

Lightning rockets

The rockets were launched from the International Center for Lightning Research, which is based in Florida in the US. The centre’s location takes advantage of the state’s record high frequency of lightning strikes, with the geography of the Florida peninsula promoting the formation of warm, humid updrafts, which generate very active thunderclouds at high altitudes.

To record the acoustic signature of thunder, Dayeh and colleagues designed a large array of 16 microphones, each spaced one metre apart. These were lined up 95 metres from the launch pad where the lightning would hit. Following each strike, post-processing and directional-amplification techniques were used to convert the recordings into a vertical acoustic profile of the lightning bolt. With sound waves from higher up in the atmosphere taking longer to reach the receivers, each return-stroke signal has a characteristically curved appearance. In their study, the researchers imaged strikes with at least nine separate return strokes and found that the loudest part of the thunderclap comes from where the bolt meets the ground.

Craig Rodger – a physicist at the University of Otago in New Zealand who was not involved in this study – commends the work for offering a new way to investigate lightning, which he expects will lead to interesting new knowledge. “Even now, we are learning totally new things about lightning and the processes that take place during a discharge,” he says.

With their proof-of-concept study complete, Dayeh’s team is now working on refining its technique to better explore the outstanding mysteries around lightning generation. One potential avenue of investigation, for example, would be in triggering lightning with a more natural, zigzag appearance – rather than the straight form created by the wires in the current set-up. From this, they might distinguish between the different components of lightning – current pulses, discharge-channel zigzags and step-leader branches – and analysing their acoustic signals independently.

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